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TO THE ORNAMENT OF HIS AGE AND COUNTRY,
DOCTOR OF DIVINITY,
AND MOST FAMOUS PROFESSOR IN THE CHURCH OF BREMEN;
GRACE AND PEACE.
Had your accusers read, most Reverend Brother, the statement you have sent me, there had been no occasion for me to interpose my judgment, be it worth much or little. If they have any sense of shame, they must themselves have recalled, spontaneously and gladly, the calumnies adduced, with so little truth, to your discredit. For in these documents you have exonerated yourself with so much openness of mind, and by so irrefragable evidences, from charges, or rather from suspicions, of having fallen into heresy; that, after an apology of this sort, envy herself has nothing to object against you. Circulate your own letters; and you will have no occasion to use my answers.
Yet since you so ardently desire my opinion of certain passages in your Commentaries, I cannot deny you satisfaction in 80 small a matter.
There is one thing, however, to stop the mouths of cavillers at the outset; that you have chosen patrons of the right kind for your publication. Surely, if you had wished to make your escape into the camp of Arminius, to say nothing of Socinus, you would have sought for other names, than those of Poliander, Walæus, Thysius, Trigland; men conspicuous, long ago, among the constellations of Dort: to whose remarks moreover you have so modestly submitted those your labours, whether for their approval, or, if need be, for their correction.
The passages at which you say offence was taken, I have diligently examined. There is positively nothing in your first Preface, which could be construed, spite of distortion, to sup
trahi possit ad heterodoxam aliquam gratiæ divinæ universalitatem stabiliendam. Sed et illa in Zachar. iv. ejusdem omnino censûs, nihil habent errori alicui affine: ostendunt tantùm manifestum gratiæ divinæ, succedentibus seculis, erga Ecclesiam suam, in luminis salvifici expansione ampliore clarioréque, specimen et incrementum: quo quid verius cogitari potest? Conquirunt profectò et fingunt istic errores malevoli, non inveniunt.
Absolutam Prædestinationem negat Præfatio posterior; sed, eo sensu, quo clarissimus collega tuus, D. Lud. Crocius, Syntagmatis p. 987: non sine respectu ad ipsam decreti executionem. Decreti, inquis, electionis, fundamentum Christus est; conditio salvandis implenda, fides : et salvandis, dixisti, implenda; non, in eligendis, prævisa et prærequisita. Quis sanus aliter dixerit?
Quæ de Reprobatione definiisti, non alia sunt quàm quæ à Theologis Dordracenis ex professo tradita sunt. Nec enim aliud est, Deum ex absolutâ voluntate neminem excludere à gratiâ, et æterno exitio destinare, quàm, Deum neminem absque intuitu peccati damnare voluisse. Culpam ergo reprobationis in mortalium pertinaciâ et incredulitate hærere, tutissime verissimèque determinâsti. Analysin quod spectat loci illius celeberrimi ad Rom. ix. nộrunt Dordraceni omnes, me non monuisse modò, sed et pro concione publicâ obnixè etiam effilagitâsse, ut ad hoc ipsum examen tota de Prædestinatione controversia revocaretur. Ab utrâque authorum litigantium parte tentatum est hoc palàm, subque prælo non uno : quo autem successu, silere mavelim. Certè, dum alii rigidiorem sectantur viam, in absolutam Dei potestatem voluntatémque, absque ullâ ratione peccati, rejicientes plurimorum perditionem; alii, libera tatis humanæ parasiti
, ita sui juris faciunt homines, ac si nulli omnino decreto subjicerentur. Utrinque satis periculosè peccatur : deseritur, medium tenens, veritas ; quæ tamen à moderatis quibúsque ingeniis officiosè colitur.
Quod tu dum facis, tutò profitere te Synodi Orthodoxæ Dordracenæ Theologis nullatenùs adversari. Quoties enim, quàmque rotundè, celeberrimi illi Doctores professi sunt, Deum neminem damnare, aut damnationi destinare, nisi ex consideratione peccati! Ut Britanni nostri; Artic. 1. Thes. 5. Sed
port, in a heterodox sense, the universality of divine grace. And even your remarks on Zechar. iv. though coming under the same description, have nothing akin to any error whatsoever: they merely represent the influence and increase of the grace of God, as manifested in succeeding ages to his Church, by the fuller and clearer development of the light of salvation and what can be imagined more consonant to truth, than this? In passages such as these, your enemies hunt for faults, and make what they cannot find.
Your subsequent Preface denies Absolute Predestination; but in the same sense, in which your illustrious colleague, Louis Crocius, does, in his Syntagma, p. 978:
not without respect, that is, to the execution of the decree. The foundation of the decree of Election, you say, is Christ; and faith, the condition to be fulfilled by those that shall be saved: to be fulfilled, you say, by those that shall be saved; not foreseen or foresought in those that should be chosen. Who in his senses would speak otherwise ?
The propositions you have asserted concerning Reprobation, are none other than those which were avowedly delivered by the Divines of Dort. Nor is the assertion, that God, of absolute will, excludes no one from grace, and dooms no one to everlasting perdition, any thing else but that God willed to destroy no one but upon the sight of sin. You have therefore most safely and most truly concluded, that the blame of reprobation adheres entirely to the impenitence and unbelief of men. With respect to your analysis of that famous passage in Rom. ix. the members of Dort are all aware, that I not only recommended, but vehemently urged in the presence of the assembly, that the whole controversy of Predestination should be reduced to this very text. An effort to this effect was publicly made by the parties who contended on either side, and in publications issued from more than one quarter: but with what success, I would rather not record. Certainly, while some follow a more rigid course, casting the perdition of multitudes upon the absolute power and will of God, without any cognizance of sin; others, the flatterers of human liberty, invest mankind with a jurisdiction of their own, as if they were subjected to no decree at all. The mistake is dangerous enough on both sides : truth, which occupies the middle place, is forsaken; though dutifully cultivated by men of wisdom and discretion.
For yourself, while thus engaged, you do well to acknowledge that you oppose not, to the smallest degree, the Theologians of the Orthodox Synod of Dort. For how often, and how broadly, did those illustrious Doctors profess, that God destroys no man, and dooms no man to destruction, save on the consideration of sin! As also our English Divines; in Artic. 1. et fratres Hassiacos multis hoc argumentis comprobâsse palàm est : nec qui Theologorum omnium accuratiùs expressiusve istud docuerunt, quàm Bremenses vestri: nec abludit ipsa Synodi vox, quæ, reprobationem ipsam definiens, præteritos eos esse ait, quos, ex liberrimo, justissimo, irreprehensibili, et immutabili beneplacito, in communi miseriâ, in quam se suâ culpâ præcipitârunta. Præteritionem, Derelectionémque, (Synodi verba agnoscimus ;) ac, deinde, æternæ propter suam infidelitatem et alia peccata punitionis decretum, quis sanus inficietur? Distinctionem illam, inter negativam Reprobationem, sive nonelectionem ; et positivam, sive præparationem pænæ eorum, qui, in statu corruptionis relicti, judicium sibi meritissimum accersunt, quis non libenter agnoscat ? Resistere nos nimis sæpe gratiæ divinæ, ad conversionem nostram nos importunè satis invitanti urgentíque, quis neget? Modò concedatur et illud; esse quandam peculiarem gratiam, sive per Dei sapientiam sive per ejus potentiam, administratam; cui homo, qui per eam vocatur, non resistit, et quæ à nullo duro corde respuitur. Quod tu, cum Theologis Leydensibus, ut et illi cum S. Augustino, rectissimè asseruisti. Sed quid ego telam tuam retexo? Oculatus oportet adversarius sit, qui in hisce novem de Reprobratione sectionibus, quicquam invenerit, quod veritati divinæ, sanctáeque charitati, non sit omni modo consentaneum.
Mitior paulo fortasse videri potest illa, quæ de Sacræ Cænæ privatâ administratione moveri lis solet: quæ, tamen, etiam Ecclesiis nostris, nescio quas turbas fecerit. Hic scilicet unus est, ex Quinque illis Articulis Perthanis, Ecclesiæ Scoticanæ, à doctissimo regum Jacobo VI. pridem propositis, multorum exindè calamis satis supérque agitatus. Præter nostros, doctissimus Episcopus Berchinensis, post illum, D. Johannes Forbesius, aliique Theologi Aberdonenses, ingenia hîc sua, magnâ cum laude, exercuerunt. Certè miror ego, quâ tandem freti ratione, privati quidam Theologi saluberrimo huic, sed et antiquissimo receptissimóque, in Ecclesiâ mori, sese opposuerint. Unquamne vetuit hoc privatim fieri Christus, aut Apostolorum
• As there has been but one edition of this Epistle, the words necessary to the proper structure of this sentence must be left to conjecture. It is evident, Thes. 5. That the brethren of Hesse too, approved this doctrine by many arguments, is notorious : nor, of all our Theologians, have any taught it more accurately or more distinctly, than your own of Bremen. Neither is there any inconsistency in that article of the Synod, which, in defining reprobation, asserts that those are passed by, whom God, according to his most free and just, unblameable and unchangeable will, leaves in the general misery, into which, by their own fault, they have precipitated themselves. Who, that is sound in doctrine, will deny Præterition and Dereliction, (I adopt the words of the Synod;) and thence the decree of eternal punishment for the unbelief and other sins of the individual? Who would not readily avow that distinction, between negative Reprobation, or non-election; and positive, that is, the provision of punishment for those, who, being left in a state of corruption, procure for themselves most worthy condemnation? Who would deny, that we too often resist the grace of God, inviting and urging us most importunately to our conversion? Only let thus much be granted; that there is a certain peculiar grace, whether administered by the wisdom or by the power of God; which the man, who is called by it, resists not; and which is rejected by no heart, however hard. And this is the very thing which you, with the Divines of Leyden, and they with St. Augustine, have asserted. But why should I unweave your web? He must be à sharp-sighted adversary, who, in these nine sections on Reprobation, can find any thing, not altogether consistent with divine truth, and sacred charity.
The controversy, which is often raised about the administration of the Holy Supper, may appear somewhat less untractable: it is one, nevertheless, which has produced inexpressible commotion, even in our own Churches. This, in fact, is one of the Five Articles of Perth, formerly proposed to the Church of Scotland, by the most learned of Sovereigns, James the 6th; and which has since been canvassed enough, and more than enough, by the pens of many writers. Besides our own, there is the most learned Bishop of Brechin, and, after him, John Forbes, and other Divines of Aberdeen, who have most creditably exercised their wisdom in the discussion. Certainly I marvel, on what ground of reason they have relied, that certain Theologians should have ventured, in their private capacities, to gainsay this most wholesome, and at the same time most ancient and general custom of the Church. Did Christ, or any one of his Apostles, ever forbid this to be done pri
that relinquit Deus, or some words of like import, are wanting in the close : and these words occur in a similar sentence, in the last of these three letters. --Pratt.